By Debbie James, MS, RD
Eat broccoli, have a baby, right? Of course it’s not that easy, but there is a strong correlation between nutrition factors and ability to conceive for couples that have had difficulty. Keeping weight at a healthy level (BMI 20-24) is also a big factor, though it’s not attributable to any particular food type. A pattern of eating called “The Fertility Diet” exists and is named by researchers in the field. From that, here are five foods you should eat as part of a healthy diet and how they play a part in conception.
1 Full-fat Milk Products
Dairy products such as whole fluid milk, yogurt and ice cream that retain the natural milk fat (about 8 grams per cup) provide protection against infertility. Women consuming 1-2 servings per day have fewer problems getting pregnant. Plain yogurt tops the dairy list since it also provides beneficial probiotics and contains less sugar than ice cream or fluid milk.
2 Beans & Quinoa
These low-glycemic carbohydrates can replace other starch choices such as refined flours that are associated with ovulatory infertility. Lowering the glycemic impact of your meals can reduce the insulin response by slowing digestion and thus blood sugar rise. Insulin sensitivity is a major factor in subfertile conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome. Beans and quinoa are good plant protein sources so you can cut back on animal protein which is correlated with ovulatory infertility.
Couples undergoing IVF/ICSI who maintained high intakes of fish and legumes increased the likelihood of conceiving. Women following a Mediterranean style diet, which contains greater fish, vegetables and legumes, had lower risk of difficulty getting pregnant. Salmon (as well as herring, mackerel and tuna) have high levels of omega-3 fatty acid, a type of unsaturated fat, which is beneficial in replacing trans fat in the diet. The sperm of infertile men contain lower in omega-3 concentrations.
Nature’s candy such as citrus fruit, papaya and melon are high sources of Vitamin C, beta carotene and folate. These nutrients are important for men as they affect reproductive function and semen quality. For subfertile men undergoing ICSI, fruit and cereal grain intake were shown to have greater sperm concentration and motility.
5 Multivitamin/Mineral Supplement
In as little as 3 months micronutrient supplementation can improve pregnancy rate in women. Subfertile women undergoing OI that took a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement had higher cumulative pregnancy rate and required fewer attempts before pregnancy than women taking only folate.
Debbie James, MS, RD is a registered dietitian with 18 years’ experience in educating people across the lifecycle about proper nutrition for optimal growth and physical functioning. In 2012 she presented a talk on “Nutrition For Conception” to the Orange District Dietetic Association, a group of nutrition professionals. References available upon request: DebbieJamesRD@hotmail.com